Pinarayi Vijayan takes oath as Kerala CM, 20 ministers inducted in cabinet

In the recently-concluded assembly elections, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) stormed back to power after winning a brute majority of 99 seats in the 140-member house.
Chief minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan after taking oath during the swearing-in ceremony, in Thiruvananthapuram on May 20, 2021(ANI Photo)
Chief minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan after taking oath during the swearing-in ceremony, in Thiruvananthapuram on May 20, 2021(ANI Photo)
Updated on May 21, 2021 04:58 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Thursday administered oath of office and secrecy to Pinarayi Vijayan and 20 of his cabinet members at a function at central stadium in the state capital.

In the recently-concluded assembly elections, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) stormed back to power after winning a brute majority of 99 seats in the 140-member house. The lead Communist Party of India (Marxist), however, decided to drop all members of the outgoing ministry other than the chief minister to induct fresh faces. Junior partner Communist Party of India (CPI) followed suit by inducting four new faces.

Among new ministers inducted into the cabinet was journalist-turned- politician Veena George (44) who was given the health portfolio, replacing the high-profile K K Shailaja. P A Mohammad Riyas, the chief minister’s son-in-law, was given two key portfolios, tourism and public works department. Former member of Rajya Sabha K N Balagopal was announced as the new finance minister, succeeding Dr Thomas Isaac, an economist. Another former Rajya Sabha member P Rajeev was declared the new industry minister. Prof R Bindhu, wife of acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan, will be the higher education minister.

Amid a triple lockdown in Thiruvananthapuram, invitees were limited to less than 400 after several leaders and organisations pleaded the government to hold the ceremony online in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government, however, went ahead with the programme amid strict restrictions in place. CPI)M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury was among those who attended the function.

With his party’s victory, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan changed the state’s political script of alternating power between two coalitions for more than four decades. After the second successive win, he has turned into an unquestionable leader within the party and Left movement in the country.

Vijayan managed to hold the party and LDF together while the Left forces surrendered meekly in erstwhile forts, West Bengal and Tripura. With his inimitable style, he made use of natural disasters (two consecutive floods in 2018 and 2019) and pandemic to his credit. His daily press briefing at 6 pm almost turned into a staple for the common man as a close look at the election results showed that people from all castes, regions and economic classes had extended their support to his government.

A look at profile of key ministers

Veena George: Health minister

Journalist-turned-politician Veena George (44) will replace high-profile health minister K K Shailaja in Pinarayi Vijayan 2.0. Elected from Aranmula (Pathanamthitta) constituency for the second time, she was handed over the crucial portfolio at a time when the state is struggling to contain the pandemic. Widespread protests had erupted after Shailaja, the face of the fight against pandemic in the state, was denied a second term. The new minister will be under tremendous pressure to keep up the image of her predecessor.

A post-graduate in physics, George was associated with several news channels as an anchor and producer before entering politics. Though she was active in the Left movement during her student days, her entry into electoral politics was quite accidental. In her maiden battle from heritage constituency Aranmula in 2016, she defeated senior Congress leader K Sivadasan Nair and she repeated the same feat in 2021. A classical dancer and orator, she won several honours during her student days. Married to Dr George Joseph, a higher secondary school teacher and an active worker of the Orthodox Syrian Church, the couple have two children.

P A Mohammed Riyas: Tourism and PWD Minister

Several eyebrows were raised when the chief minister’s son-in-law P A Mohammed Riyas (45) walked away with two plum portfolios, tourism and public works department. It is for the first time that a father and son-in-law have together secured berths in a ministry in Kerala.

National president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), party youth wing, Riyaz was elected to the assembly from Beypore constituency in Kozhikode. He began his political career with the Students Federation of India (SFI) during his high school days. He later became an active member of DFYI and went on to become its national president.

In 2009, he contested from Kozhikode Lok Sabha constituency but failed to make it. A good organiser, he married the chief minister’s daughter Veena Vijayan last year.

K N Balagopal: Finance minister

K N Balagopal (57), former member of Rajya Sabha, will be the new finance minister, succeeding Thomas Isaac. Rising from the ranks, he started his career with the Students Federation of India, the party youth wing. He served as political secretary to chief minister V S Achuthanandan in 2006 and in 2010, he was elected to the upper house. A post-graduate in law, Balagopal is known for his analytical mind and oratory skills.

With the state economy in tatters amid the pandemic, it will be a tight-rope walk for the new finance minister hailing from Kollam.

P Rajeev: Industry minister

Another former Rajya Sabha member P Rajeev (54) also began his political career in his student days. He was a member of the Upper House from 2009 to 2015 and gained popularity due to his effective intervention in various issues. Representing industrial area Kalamassery in Kochi, he got the industry portfolio in Pinarayi Vijayan 2.0.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022